Unbelievable! Detailed WSO Success Story: How I Broke into Equity Research

erwannabe's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 331

Mod note (Andy): this was originally posted on 8/15/12

Hello fellow monkeys,

I wanted to take some time to write this because I definitely owe it to this community. Last week, I was given a verbal offer to work in Equity Research full-time, at a well-known bank, covering a sector that I love, and signed the written offer today! You cannot imagine how excited am, especially since I thought it would never happen...but it did. In no way or form, however, did I do it alone. I had a ton of help from mentors I networked with and of course, Wall Street Oasis. The people on here who put in the time and effort to answer newbie questions are amazing and unfortunately no amount of SBs can repay you guys (please don't calculate this), and I hope I can pass on the love.

And so, I want to describe how I did it. I hope this is valuable to people looking to break into Equity Research and please feel free to PM me with any questions!

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I am originally from overseas and I came to NY to attend a semi-target. I'll be the first to admit it: I screwed around for the greater part of 3 years in college. So when my senior year began, I had just one legitimate internship (unrelated to ER however) under my belt that I did in my freshman-sophomore year, and a very low GPA. This is when I sort of woke up. All of my friends had completed coveted SA positions and some had even gotten offers. For the first time in my life, I was truly envious of others. So I got my shit together. I moved out of my fancy $1,600 apartment and subletted a $700 room to sleep/study (people who live in NY will attest to how cheap and how shitty it is), began improving my English writing/grammar skills, took my classes seriously (including a public speaking elective which was extremely valuable), did two internships during the school year (loosely related to research), began reading WSJ, NYT, M&I, WSO religiously, and went through all the videos in BIWS's Financial modeling/Excel fundamentals course.

The end result? A 3.3 GPA and no job after graduation (May). I was crushed.

Many of you will know the humiliation of not having a job after graduating. You become self-conscious of what others think of you, your parents nag you every day (because you're living with them now), you begin to think lowly of yourself, and you begin to spray your resume around in panic because you just want to land something. All in all, it sucks.

Any of you in this situation right now, I have some advice for you. It's not "Don't give up." Although you shouldn't. My advice to you is: "you're doing something wrong."

People who excel, don't excel just because they keep trying. Rather, it's a combination of persistence AND changing your strategy to leverage your strengths and reduce your weaknesses if your current strategy hasn't produced results. Chances are, if you haven't received an offer after trying over several months, it's not going to happen with the way you are doing things.

What does this mean? It means, you need to have the courage to analyze what you are doing wrong and tailoring/altering everything. From your "tell me about yourself" answer to your stock pitch. If you don't know, ASK someone. Don't be embarrassed. 90% of the time, people understand the difficulty and will be more than happy to help out.

So this is what I did:

1. I first took a long look at my resume. I mean REALLY looked at it. I realized, I didn't really know if it had things ER recruiters were looking for. It seemed nicely written, had no grammatical errors, and listed 'great' achievements, but it obviously wasn't getting me the interviews. So I asked for help. I took my resume to friends in the industry, old professors, anyone I knew who would give me the honest truth and they ripped it apart. What you need to realize though, is that the value in doing this is NOT to come out with a great resume (although that is a byproduct). It is to truly UNDERSTAND what is LOOKED at and what is VALUED when finance professionals in your industry (ER, IB, S&T, whatever), look at your resume. It gives you an idea of what you should be studying/working on, what you are probably NOT expected to know, how to tailor your fit questions/answers, how to show focus and passion with your experience/classes , and most importantly, how to differentiate yourself.

2. However, your experience is your experience. There is a limit to how much you can study and polish your resume, and so I realized that I needed some solid experience to showcase a passion and focus for the industry. So I took an internship at a small buy-side shop doing largely administrative work. Why? Because at the firm, there were several research analysts that I knew I wanted to network with. And so, I worked my butt off for 3 months. I came in early 7AM and left later than everyone else in the office. This is where networking becomes valuable. Yes, cold-calling/emailing can help, but people are reluctant to help you when they know nothing about you. People are much more inclined to help if they actually witness that you are a hard worker and can ask intelligent questions. I excelled at the admin stuff for one week. Then during my 2nd week, one of the analysts came to ME and told me that I could ask him for advice anytime I wanted and he became a valuable mentor to me during the next 2 months. He wrecked my resume, gave my projects to work on that I could talk about during interviews (analyzing SEC filings, building models), and let me 'help' him come up with catalysts for positions the firm had. At first, I sucked. But I wasn't afraid to fix what I was doing wrong. I took the BIWS online class again and read the guides everyday on the train. I pulled up every equity research report I could find and came up with 10+ stock pitches I was comfortable with. I was able to get immediate feedback to what I was doing because the analyst was willing to help me out and saw that I was extremely passionate. My admin boss would come in at 9, so I had nearly 2 hours to badger the analysts who came in at 7 and nearly 3 hours after my shift to ask if I could shadow them, help out on projects, use their Bloomberg, and ask questions about equity research. You really have to TRY writing research reports/build models/pitch stocks to 'get' it and get comfortable with it.

3. I spent the better part of my nights also improving my writing/speaking skills. My writing skills improved vastly from writing ER reports (these can serve as writing samples because banks are sure to ask for them for ER positions - very important!). I also recorded myself practicing every fit question in the WSO/M&I guides. I reduced my "ums"/stuttering, and exercised enunciation. After practicing so much, I had memorized answers to many of the typical fit questions. It gave me confidence during interviews and I was able to project myself as an articulate person.

4. I worked on my accounting (BIWS Course, old accounting textbook, WSO/M&I guides). I got about 10 accounting questions during my interview and was able to answer them completely.

5. I was not afraid to admit something I did not know and I never lied. The thing about banks, or ER at least, is that they know that you are still a student or are a recent graduate. They understand that we have never truly worked in the industry and that we probably don't know a whole lot. However, they do know there are a ton of resources out there that if you were passionate, you would utilize. And so, the idea is to show your passion through knowing the basics (anyone can learn these), but going into the interview and proving an extreme willingness to learn/work hard/work long hours, the ability to learn quickly so you can help out the team ASAP, and honesty. For example, one interviewer (MD) asked me if I currently invest in anything on my own. I said no, but that I had been trying to study certain names and could explain why I would buy/sell them. She loved my honesty and told me that many people who interview for ER positions feel the need to lie about having invested on their own. As an interviewer, she said that when someone says they invest on their own, they are inclined to grill the shit out of those people. If you show that you are in the process of learning, they will go much easier on you.

So all in all, I probably slept about 2 hours a day for nearly 3 months practicing, practicing, failing more interviews, recording myself talk, writing reports, analyzing stocks on my own, memorizing certain 'fit' answers, breaking models, fixing those models, reading everything related to equity research I could get my hands on, polishing my resume more, realizing mistakes I made and strengthening my answers, and more practicing.

The end result this time? A brand new resume, a GREAT understanding of what equity researchers look for in new junior associates, modeling experience I could talk about, several long/short stocks I could pitch, a strong base of knowledge in accounting/valuations to answer technical questions, sample models I could use if asked for, writing samples I could use if asked for (very important), and more confidence (extremely important).

Needless to say, it paid off. I was given the offer a week later on a Friday after they had checked all my references. I couldn't believe it. I signed the offer and the 'congratulations' emails have begun to pour in from other departments and it's the most amazing feeling in the world. I even had to turn down several second/final round interviews from other banks (top BBs, but not in sectors that I'm interested in).

Sorry that this is so long, but I felt it was necessary to give as much detail as possible. To everyone who is still looking for a job: it is possible, put the work in and the results will come. Perhaps not immediately, but it will happen for you eventually.

Anyways, I just want to say thanks to WSO. You guys have been fantastic and I hope I can become more of a contributor now, than a receiver.

Good luck all! I'm going to take a couple of days to celebrate, then back to studying!

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edit: hi guys! I'm getting an overwhelming number of PMs/responses. I will be home from my internship in a couple of hours and so I will get to everyone then! Just reply or PM me and I will try to respond by the end of the day.

Thanks for all the congratulations~!

-erwannabe